Bound By Desire

Desire is one of the rare emotional states that falls between what should be praised and what should be disdained. It is evocative; desire suggests urgency and extremes, yet the word “desire” must be elucidated before we can judge it. Our desire can encompass either the great biblical vices—lust, gluttony, envy—or today’s virtues, like passion, enthusiasm and imagination.

Design Behind Desire
, a new book of art and design edited by Lisa Z. Morgan, co-creator of the  lingerie line Strumpet and Pink, aims to address our ambiguous relationship with desire. The book is published by The Curated Collection, an imprint of Farameh Media, a publishing house whose female founder, the multi-lingual former television producer Patrice Farameh, is a rarity in the male-dominated world of art academia. It’s easy to forget that until recently desire was banished from polite society, especially polite female society. To be desirous as a woman was to be wanton, and a threat.

Morgan divides the book into three stages of desire: generation, contemplation and fulfillment. Each stage is explored through choice quotes from savants of literature and philosophy, and designs from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Coco de Mer and Fleet Illya. Even the cover of the book seems illicit: a torn slit in a silvery-nude cloth invites the reader to reach down onto the lace hardcover. In the chapter called “fulfillment” readers uncover a secret book within the book, the “Cabinet of Desire,” which features snippets of poetry, mythology and cruel eroticism presented within the frame of an ancient leather-bound tome.

To appreciate the Cabinet of Desire, one must first experience the build-up of Morgan’s carefully chosen artifacts and images, a small selection of which appear in the gallery above.